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Sep 01, 2014
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By the Book: David Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno

March 11th 05:03pm, 2014



David Tanis describes his latest cookbook best when he writes, “If it sounds like all these recipes are relatively easy to prepare, they are. And if it seems like the menu is all over the map, it is. The only real requirement for a recipe’s inclusion here – wherever it comes from – is for it to be tasty, simple and real.”

As I paged through Tanis’ One Good Dish, I couldn’t agree with his words more. Not all of the dishes are what you would think of as a dish – like salted almonds with rosemary or cucumber spears with dill. There isn’t an obvious organizational scheme besides by ingredient, and even that theme is loose. Yet Tanis’ structure, or lack thereof, is purposeful; as he also mentions in his introduction, he doesn’t believe certain foods should have to be eaten at specific times of day. And he doesn’t think a meal must be made of a main, side, salad, etc. … Maybe you want anchovy-garlic spread for breakfast, and maybe you crave pickled ginger coupled with boiled peanuts for dinner. If this is the case, this is your book.




The reason I chose to make Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno is because he likened the dish to a lasagna without the pasta – I was intrigued.




I almost hated to chop up the two pounds of Swiss chard, it looked so beautiful and fresh.




The recipe called to boil the stems of the chard for five minutes before adding it to the dish, which was a great tip. Sometimes baked vegetables, particularly greens, turn into a soggy mess, but the stems and the greens in the finished dish were not at all limp.




As Tanis explains, this dish, along with most of his recipes, is fairly simple. However, there were certain add-ons that made it stand out, such as the touch of nutmeg that was swirled into the béchamel.




I only used two cups of milk in the béchamel and it still seemed too runny. The recipe advises adding the milk in one-quarter cup at a time, but I would recommend adding it even slower or not using as much.

In the end, this recipe really was just buttery, cheesy greens – not pasta-less lasagna. And the consistency of the dish was a bit too soupy. I would either keep it in the oven longer or use less milk in the béchamel. Still, the finished product looked and tasted delicious, and the nutmeg turned out to be a great addition. Even though I only used a pinch, I immediately was able to taste in my first bite. While I wouldn’t recommend this dish as a meal, it would make for a great side dish to bring to a potluck.



David Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno
6 Servings

For the béchamel:
4 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg

2 lbs. Swiss chard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano  cheese

• To make the béchamel, melt the 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let cook for 1 minute.
• Add 2 cups milk, ¼ cup at a time, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Thin with more milk if necessary. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
• Turn the heat to low and cook, whisking, for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the sauce warm in a double boiler.
• Meanwhile, cut the stems from the chard. Trim them and cut into batons, about ½ inch thick by 3 inches. Rinse well and set aside.
• Stack the chard leaves about 6 at a time, roll them up like a cigar, and cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Wash twice in cold water and drain.
• Bring 8 cups of well-salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the chard stem batons and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
• Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let sizzle without browning, then add the chopped chard leaves. Season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander. When the chard is cool, squeeze to remove excess liquid.
• Heat the oven 400 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart gratin dish or shallow baking dish. Add the chard leaves in an even layer. Arrange the cooked stems over the top. Spoon the béchamel over the entire dish. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
• Bake until golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Artisan.

Sashimi for breakfast? Ice cream sundae for lunch? What one good dish have you eaten at an odd time of day? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of One Good Dish. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Chris T., whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Vegetable Literacy. Chris, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.




By Julie Cohen

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5 Responses to “By the Book: David Tanis’ Swiss Chard al Forno”

  1. Katie Says:
    March 17th, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    When in San Fran I have been known to eat Boccalone Meat cones for breakfast.

  2. Angela Schlegel Says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    My sister and I ate ice cream for breakfast quite often growing up – I think that was all my mom could do to get us fed and out the door on time!

  3. Harper Says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I love breakfast foods at any time other than breakfast. Pancakes at 1:00 in the morning. Biscuits and gravy with a glass of wine for dinner. Perfection.

  4. Kathryn Porterfield Says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    My favorite is breakfast for dinner with homemade waffles, spread with crunchy peanut butter, crisp bacon and warm Vermont maple syrup……delicious comfort food with that ideal combo of sweet and salty, crisp and creamy.

  5. Nicole S. Says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I previously thought of avocados as additions to a great sandwich, salad or night out at a Mexican restaurant. However, I’ve loved having it on a piece of toast or omelet for breakfast.

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